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China’s National Interest

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  • February 11, 2011
    Fellows' Seminar

    Chair: Amd. R. Rajagopalan
    External Discussant: Prof. Swaran Singh and Prof. Abanti Bhattacharya

    The paper argues that China’s national interest, and the strategies that China follows to achieve these, are intricately linked to its priorities at the domestic level. What China defines as its core national interests are relatively stable, while the policies which are adopted to achieve these are fluid in nature. According to the author, Chinese writings show that when there is an expansion of economic interest it invariably leads to an expansion of national interest. She concludes by adding that the relationship between military power and economic development which was emphasized by Deng Xiaoping continues to be important even today. Economic development also features as a ‘constant’ and ‘vital’ interest in the classification of national interests. The author’s concluding argument was that while writings on China’s national interests state that peace and development cannot be de-linked, clarity should be maintained on the priority between the two, and development should not be compromised to maintain peace, as argued by Yan Xuetong.

    The main points of discussion were:

    • There is a need to define national interest and what is included and excluded from the core national interest should also be discussed.
    • There is also a need to differentiate between ‘need’ driven and ‘ambition’ driven national interest. Chinese scholars have also not done much work on this topic.
    • There is a need to locate evolution and fluctuation. How and when the choice between sovereignty and regime security does fluctuate.
    • There is a need to study the overemphasis on culture in the context of China’s national interest.
    • The paper needs to bring out the debates within China and explore how the Chinese conception of the national interest is different from the western conception.
    • One needs to also discuss the understanding of the new generation of leadership and whether evolution of national interest in China is a stable or an unstable concept.
    • One also needs to discuss whether national interest is a bourgeoisie concept and discuss the changes after the military modernization and the increase in Chinese confidence.
    • It was suggested that the author could discuss the changes within the concept after the rise of China and the difference between present national interest and future national interest.
    • There is a need to examine the connection between domestic issues and developments and the changes in the concept of national interest.
    • One also needs to define peripheral and global interests and the connection between national interest and diplomacy.

    Report prepared by Gunjan Singh, Research Assistant, IDSA